Historic Center of Florence (1982)
Italy

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Built on the site of an Etruscan settlement, Florence, the symbol of the Renaissance, rose to economic and cultural pre-eminence under the Medici in the 15th and 16th centuries. 

Its 600 years of extraordinary artistic activity can be seen above all in the 13th-century cathedral (Santa Maria del Fiore), the Church of Santa Croce, the Uffizi and the Pitti Palace, with works of great masters such as Giotto, Brunelleschi, Botticelli and Michelangelo. 

United Nations (New York) 2002. World Heritage Series. Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence.

The facade of the cathedral, although not built until late in the 19th century, is faithful in style to the rest of the edifice. The cathedral is the most imposing structure on the right bank of the Arno. Beside the cathedral stands the 14th-century campanile (bell tower), which was begun by Giotto and continued by Andrea Pisano. 

Adorned with exquisite bas-reliefs, the campanile (82 m/269 ft high) is perhaps the most beautiful in Italy. 

  • United Nations (New York) 2002. World Heritage Series. Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. 
Sixty meters (197 ft) above the ground at the base, spanning 42 meters (138 ft), it was built without the benefit of scaffolding or wooden centering. It had to be an ultra-light structure because the walls of the octagon on which the dome rests were rather fragile. 

Brunelleschi's solution was a double shell and a revolutionary technique for anchoring the stonework, to divert part of the thrust horizontally and upwards. The cathedral of Florence is Brunelleschi's tour de force, and still a source of admiration for architects. 

  • Italy 1996. Cathedral de Santa Maria dei Fiore. 

Italy 1996. Cathedral de Santa Maria dei Fiore, Florence.

Italy 1995. Basilica of the Holy Cross, Florence.

The Basilica di Santa Crose (Basilica of the Holy Cross) is the principal Franciscan church of Florence, and a minor basilica of the Roman Catholic Church. It is situated on the Piazza Santa Croce, to the east of the Cathedral of Santa Maria dei Fiore. 

The church is vast. Its most notable features are its sixteen chapels, many of them decorated with frescoes by Giotto and his pupils. The Campanile (in the background on the right) was built in 1842. 

The church of the Santa Croce, of which the neo-Gothic façade only dates from the 19th century, is Florence's pantheon, containing among others the tombs of Michelangelo, Machiavelli, Galileo, and Rossini. 

  • Italy 1995. Basilica of the Holy Cross.  

The Piazza della Signoria, containing the Fountain of Neptune (completed 1576), is dominated by the majestic Palazzo Vecchio, or Palazzo della Signoria, a rough and sturdy but pleasingly harmonious building surmounted by a crenellated 94-m (308-ft) bell tower (campanile). Built between 1299 and 1314, this palace became the seat of the town council in 1550; later the Italian Chamber of Deputies met there from 1865 to 1871. The vast halls and state apartments are ornately decorated in the style of the late Renaissance. Opposite is the Loggia dell’Orcagna (late 14th century), also called Loggia dei Lanzi, a roofed structure open at the sides, which houses a number of statues, among them the bronze Perseus (completed 1554) by Benvenuto Cellini and the Rape of the Sabines (1579-1583) by Giambologna. 

Italy 1985. Piazza della Signoria, Florence.

Italy 1992. Neptune Fountain, Florence.

Italy 2004. The State Archives.

On one side of the entrance to the Palazzo Vecchio, stands Michelangelo's David, sculpted from a single block of marble when the artist was only thirty years old. Michelangelo was based in Florence 1501-1505. The major work of this period is the colossal (4.34 m/143 ft) marble David (1501-1504, Accademia, Florence). The Old Testament hero is depicted as a lithe, naked youth, muscular and alert, looking into the distance as if sizing up the enemy Goliath, whom he has not yet encountered. When sculpting this statue Michelangelo is quoted to have expressed that "When I saw this piece of marble, I knew immediately that David was inside.  My job would be to cut the excess marble away to reveal him".  

Monaco 2001. Michelangelo. David.

Italy 1961. Palazzo Vecchio, Florence.

The statue, which symbolized the fortitude of the Florentine republic, originally stood in the Piazza della Signoria in front of the Palazzo Vecchio, the Florentine town hall. (A copy now stands in the piazza.)  

The fiery intensity of David’s facial expression exemplifies the terribilità (emotional intensity) that is characteristic of many of Michelangelo’s figures and of his own personality, and the whole figure demonstrates his mastery of the male nude. 

Between the Palazzo Vecchio and the Arno stands the Palazzo degli Uffizi, built late in the 16th century to house government offices and law courts. It is famous for its art gallery, the Uffizi Gallery, one of the finest in Europe, which contains an unsurpassed collection of works by the greatest painters of Italy and a rich sampling of works by Flemish and French masters. 

Florence itself is a masterpiece, wrought by a brilliant company of architects, sculptors and painters who, especially in the fifteenth century, made the city a beacon for the entire Western world. It was one of those fortunate times when art brought about a revolution in think in a prevailing climate of economic liberalism. 

At the Uffizi museum, the sensitive visitor can follow the slow emergence of a new concept of Man and his place in the universe. 

This revolutionary process took place then in a context of carefully coded religious subjects -- Annunciations, Virgins and Child, biblical scenes ...  

And yet, from Duccio and Giotto to Masaccio and Michelangelo, you can follow a scarlet thread which leads from an almost disembodied representation of the human figure to the triumph of expression, life, and movement. 

Italy 1974. Uffizi Galleries.

Italy 1974. Jacopo della Quercia "The Creation of Adam".

The nearby Ponte Vecchio, which is lined with goldsmiths’ and jewelers’ shops, was built about 1350; it is the only bridge in Florence spared during World War II and leads across the Arno to the Palazzo Pitti on the left bank. This building, begun in 1458 and subsequently much enlarged, was the residence of the grand dukes of Tuscany from 1550 to 1859. It contains another famous art collection, particularly rich in works by Andrea del Sarto, Raphael, Il Perugino, Titian, and Tintoretto. Behind the Pitti are the vast Boboli Gardens, used for outdoor concerts during the music festival held each year in May.

The lion is the emblem of Florence, often represented agaiinst a background of lilies. The crowned lion from the Boboli gardens, is a reminder that Florence was once the capital of a Grand Duchy.

Italy 1995. Boboli Gardens in Florence. St. Vincent and the Grenadines 1996. UNESCO Anniversary. Cathedral of Santa Maria Fiore, Florence. Italy 1950. Palazzo Pitti, Florence.

Although Florence was founded in ancient times, it was of little importance before the 11th century. By the second half of that century it was governed by a council composed of nobles and learned men that nominally functioned in the name of the people, thus making the city a republic. 

Sources and links: 

Other World Heritage Sites in Italy (on this site). Inactive links are not described on stamps. Please refer to the UNESCO-listing, section Italy for further information about such sites. 

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Revised 01 aug 2006  
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